The Eclipse Cigarette: a Review, Day 2

It’s now been about a day and a half since I decided to make myself a guinea pig in order to evaluate the new Eclipse cigarette from RJR. As mentioned before this study is not funded by anyone but myself, so you’ll get the real deal on this site.

If you haven’t seen part 1 yet you can find it here.

What smell?

I thought today that I’d go some more about the smell, or lack thereof, of the Eclipse. I am completely impressed. RJR is on the ball with this one, the cigarette simply doesn’t leave a smell behind when you’re done with it. A lot of it has to do with it not producing ashes, of course; what little carbon burns is purified to start with. For the first time in a long time I went to bed last night without the usual tobacco stench in my apartment.

Less irritation… perhaps

Another important aspect is that RJR’s claim that the cigarette produces less lung irritation seems to be on the ball, at least so far. When I got up this morning I did not feel like coughing and there was nary a wheeze to be heard. I would just take it for granted previously, but that I should see so much improvement in one day is pretty remarkable. Remember though that this is just one day, so the results are very preliminary indeed.

Sore throat 🙁

I must report that my throat is a bit sore. I have no idea whether this is related to the new cigs; it’s been chilly in the northeast recently, so it wouldn’t be too surprising to find that the sore throat is related more to that. At the same time it is also possible that the cigarette’s construction may be a little more conducive to throat irritation, at least in the beginning. This could be related to the “harsher smoke” you get by puffing a little too vigorously, which is likely to happen in the early adoption stage.

Further observations

The taste, or lack thereof really, is something I’m getting used to really quickly. In fact I practically enjoy that. Cigarettes do not taste or smell particularly good to me, even after smoking for, what, 18 years now. I do not particularly suffer from “smoker’s smell” either, in the sense that the smell of smoking does not seem to stick to me as much as to other people, but there’s a bit of a kick about smoking an “undetectable” cigarette.

In fact I think I will try and smoke in a place where I am not supposed to smoke sometime this week, as a sort of “real-world test” of this cigarette. As I am next door to Bloomberg’s New York there is really no shortage of places where I could do this. Strictly in the interests of science of course.

I also find myself getting a bit of a kick from other smokers’ reactions to the Eclipse; most often they look at it and ask me if I’m sure it’s lit. Also, let’s face it, as a tech geek I get a bit of an ego boost out of being able to say that I’m doing a mundane task in a more high-tech way than most people, and that’s another item to add to the Eclipse’s positives.

By and large this trial is proving almost disappointingly uneventful, so I guess it’ll be quite easy to keep it up for another 5 days, at which point I’ll decide either to switch back to my old brand or continue with these semi-smokeless ones.

I’ll keep posting further observations on this site.

The Eclipse Cigarette: a Review

I recently received a flyer in the mail advertising RJR’s Eclipse “cigarette”. Note the quotes there, as they are significant and not just a snide observation on the part of yours truly; this is not a cigarette in the classic sense of a device which burns tobacco. More on that subject later.

The cigarette is touted as having certain health benefits, which is predictably sending anti-smoking groups into a maelstrom of hissy-fitting. I’ll not review these health claims here, as I’m neither equipped nor inclined to do so. As a pretty-much-lifelong smoker already I know that there is no health-safe tobacco product; I’d be a complete moron to believe otherwise in 2004. What I will review here is Eclipse’s suitability as a cigarette from the consumer’s standpoint.

I am writing this article in great part because there seems to be no such article available on the web at this time. Do a search on Google and you’ll be bombarded with the aforementioned health group brouhaha and links to RJR’s site, neither of which is likely to be terribly informative because both have tremendous chips on their shoulders — RJR wants to sell the smokes, and health groups want to ban it like they want to ban all cigarettes. Hopefully my review will help inform those who are thinking about switching to the smoke. Note that unlike most reviews I am writing this article during my own trial period of Eclipse, so whatever conclusions one can draw from it are not already reached.

What is Eclipse?

Eclipse is a “cigarette” which produces smoke primarily by heating, instead of burning, shredded tobacco leaves. This is not a completely new approach; indeed head shops around the world have, for some time, sold “vaporizers” for the purpose of smoking marijuana which work on the same principle and promise tokers more buzz with less irritation of the lungs (not that I’d know anything about that sort of thing, of course).

Now vaporizers are really expensive (so I’m told). How is this technology transferred to a disposable product? You could go to the Eclipse web site to find out the specific details, but overall it goes like this — instead of lighting up tobacco you light up a carbon “element” which heats the tobacco stored in the rest of the cigarette, producing smoke which (at least) seems to only come out of the “smoker end” of the cigarette. The cigarette keeps the same appearance throughout consumption, because only the tip is burning, and as such produces no ash. You smoke until the carbon element is burnt out, at which point no more smoke comes out of the cigarette.

The cigarette does get noticeably warmer when you are smoking it, but not “hot”. When it’s done you place what looks like a whole cigarette in the ashtray, where it cools down.

The taste of things

The beginnings of Eclipse, or RJR Premier as it was known, were somewhat inglorious. In the movie “Barbarians at the Gate”, one hilarious scene features John Gardner saying about the product that it “tastes like shit and smells like a fart”. Not quite a ringing endorsement.

This is the first full day of my trial (not a trial funded by anyone but myself). So far I can tell you that if you think Eclipse will taste like your average Camel or Marlboro you’ll be very disappointed in Eclipse! While it does not “taste like shit”, it definitely doesn’t taste like a cigarette either, which shouldn’t be too surprising. Cigarette smoke, after all, gets a lot of its taste from the burning of the tobacco leaf, and because this (mostly) isn’t happening the taste is very different. To use a “Ralphism”, “it tastes like burning” (it does, a little). That taste is produced mostly by the refined carbon element which does burn. The taste of this cigarette is otherwise very faint. On the plus side that taste is easier to cover up with breath mints.

Is it a good taste? Not particularly. Then again ask a non-smoker if he thinks that a cigarette tastes good, and you’re not likely to gather positive reactions either.

And what about the smell, you will ask? So far in my limited testing there isn’t a lot of smell in the first place. You’d have to hold the cigarette next to your nose to smell the faint odor of a metallic burning smell. In my limited experience the smell doesn’t linger, but I suppose I’ll have more to say on the subject later this week.

Nicotine delivery

This area is actually where I’m getting disappointed. Granted, I am a one-pack-a-day full-strength cigarette smoker, but I’m having a very tough time resisting the impulse of going to the corner store and buying real cigarettes, even half-way through the first day. Without more coffee than usual I am experiencing the usual symptoms of quitting smoking: I’m a little impatient, I feel very nervous, and my hands could be a little steadier.

At the same time I don’t really feel like going to smoke more. I’ve made up my mind to smoke only Eclipse for a week, and I’m not confident that having another one just now would help!

So at first glance it would appear that Eclipse is not a terribly successful nicotine delivery system. One look at the Eclipse site confirms that impression. It only features numbers for the menthol version of the cigarette (I prefer the regular) but those numbers are 4mg of tar and a puny 0.1mg nicotine. 0.1!! I don’t have the numbers of my regular cigarettes (Davidoff Classic), but my second-choice (Lucky Strike Filter) and third-choice (Marlboro red) yield 15mg tar and 1.1mg nicotine. Smoking Eclipse is incurring a huge change right there, as it has less than 10% of the nicotine and less than 33% of the tar!

This makes for a rather harrowing first day. That’s definitely one aspect of this cigarette that takes you by surprise. All considered it’s rather disingenuous for RJR to not market this as a light cigarette. One also has to question whether the possible health benefits touted by the company might be due to the cigarette being that much weaker in the first place.

Other smoker considerations

Another aspect is that you don’t smoke Eclipse like you’d smoke just any other cigarette. In a sense the Eclipse is to cigarettes what the nicotine gum is to chewing gums.

One issue that keeps coming up is the problem of lighting the thing. I’ll grant that RJR got rid of the earlier prototype’s problem in keeping the cigarette lit once you have lit it, but lighting the cigarette remains a problem especially outdoors in windy conditions. Practically speaking, you have to do it like you’re smoking a cigar — take three or four “starter puffs” with the flame at the tip of the cigarette. Once your mouth fills with smoke you know you got it going. You’ll probably also notice the slight taste of burnt paper, noticeable only while lighting the cigarette, because it’s only emitted as the cigarette paper around the carbon element is getting lit.

It’s not that difficult, but it was enough to stop a buddy from trying even a single Eclipse.

Another issue is the smoking experience itself. An insert in the pack tells you to take only normal puffs, not very deep or very forceful ones, or the taste will be harsh. That’s not really true. The reason you shouldn’t do this is that if you do so the smoke will feel really harsh in your throat. So, they should probably rephrase that warning.

Also worthy of mention is what happens when you get to “the end” of the cigarette. Because it retains its appearance throughout the process, it can be a little difficult to know when you’re done smoking the cigarette, or at least that’s what most people would think. Again, not really true. What happens is that as the carbon element gets burnt out you get less and less smoke per puff. After a few minutes of regular puffing you’ll suddenly feel like you’re smoking a light cigarette, then an ultra-light, and you’ll notice that you’re exhaling less smoke, and that’s how you know it’s done.

In conclusion…

Despite the early hiccups I’m not going to give up on Eclipse quite yet. I still intend on smoking it exclusively for a week (except perhaps to test what “switching back” is like). So far there are mixed results though; I have come to the early conclusions that Eclipse just isn’t a cigarette you can switch to if you run out of your usual brand, because it doesn’t taste, smell, light, look or smoke like anything else on the market. Stay tuned for further impressions as the week goes on.

HP’s personnel happiness internal polls are rigged — there’s a reason they’re not one of the 100 best places to work.

HP’s personnel happiness internal polls are rigged — there’s a reason they’re not one of the 100 best places to work. The bit about the “employee happiness survey” reminded me eerily of a similar survey my company had this year…